(Business in Cameroon) - Cameroon’s national airline announced in a September 24 statement it has resumed “normal flight schedule on all our destinations, following the suspension of the strike of air traffic controllers of the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (Asecna)”.
The company made this announcement to reassure passengers after a 48-hour strike action (September 23-25) initiated by the Union of Air Traffic Controllers' Unions of Asecna (USYCAA) disrupted the flight schedule.
"Camair-Co informs its customers that, following the strike of Asecna agents (air traffic controllers) at several African airports, its operating schedule for September 23, 2022, had experienced many disruptions leading to the cancellation of all flights for that day,” the company said. The following day, flights were again disrupted.
As a reminder, authorities first tried to counter the strike-induced disruptions by requisitioning air traffic controllers. The move was criticized by the Cameroonian section of Asecna unions, which revealed that they were workers without training who operated in the control tower at Douala airport and “took the dangerous initiative to make planes take off, endangering flight safety and human lives”. The union also reported that air traffic controllers at Yaoundé-Nsimalen were forced to work in the control room, including a pregnant woman, and were psychologically harassed by local management.
Following this report, the Canadian-based International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers (Ifatca) issued a statement on September 23 indicating that “the replacement of air traffic controllers by untrained persons without informing the international community is a breach of trust and undermines the credibility of the safety of this airspace”.
Negotiations and compromise
Given the obvious risks posed by the unavailability of qualified controllers, the International Federation believes that there are immediate concerns for the safety of air traffic in this space controlled by Asecna. Ifatca, therefore, calls on all parties to find an immediate solution through negotiations, preferably with an independent mediator.
The call for calm seems to have been heard since the Usycaa lifted its strike action on September 24. The "personal" involvement of the Ivorian Prime Minister, Patrick Achi, has also helped a lot. We learned that the Ivorian official has made a firm promise to make the air traffic controllers' concerns heard by the relevant party.
Another helping hand was the negotiation session between the Usycaa Executive Secretary, the Senegalese Minister of Transport and the Director General of Asecna, the results of which led the strikers to suspend their action for 10 days from 24 September 2022. This means that if the parties do not succeed in finding a common ground within 10 days, the strike may resume.
In the meantime, the trade unionists are still demanding the reclassification of all air traffic controllers; the indexation and revaluation of overtime; the reform of the profession's career plan; the revaluation of night hours; the license premium for controllers in training; the review of the annex related to social dialogue; the reduction of understaffing within the corporation.
Written by: S.A.
Translated from French by Firmine AIZAN